Former police chief to meet birth mom after 72 years

May 29, 2015

Mike Becker, shown here with good friend Earline Bowen-Long, is holding a book about his adoption. It is opened to show his birth certificate. Earline compiled the book of information about their efforts  over the years to find his birth mother.

Mike Becker, shown here with good friend Earline Bowen-Long, is holding a book about his adoption. It is opened to show his birth certificate. Earline compiled the book of information about their efforts over the years to find his birth mother.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Mike Becker is happy and excited. He is looking forward to an exciting time in his life.
On June 4th he will board a plane and travel across the United States.

On June 5th he will meet his birth mother, who he hasn’t seen since he was three weeks old – nearly 72 years ago.
He has been searching for her for about ten years, he said, since the death of his adoptive mother. “I didn’t want to hurt my Mom,” he said, “but I have always wondered about my birth mother.”

Until this March his search hadn’t been very successful. With the help of good friend Earline Bowen-Long and his daughter Cheylene, they searched records in Lansing, eventually finding some information like his birth name – Max Garwood Fisher – and his birth mother’s maiden name Dorothy Fisher. “We didn’t know her married name,” he said.

Since the adoption records were sealed, they had a hard time finding out more, but kept trying. “It’s not easy when you are adopted,” he said.
Earline, who visits regularly, has put together a book with all of the information they have garnered about his adoption.
Then he met Kathleen Jackson of Clare, a Genealogist who offered to help. “That was on March 12th at a book signing,” he said. “She knew exactly what to do. Two days later, Kathleen called and said ‘I’ve found your mother.’” He said he wasn’t even sure if she would still be alive. Now 86 years old, Dorothy (Fisher) Hemminger is alive and so is her husband of 65 years.

On March 14 Mike made a phone call to Springfield, Oregon. “A lady answered the phone and I said, ‘This is Michael Becker of Clare. Did you ever hear of Max Garwood Fisher?’ She said, ‘Yes, that was my baby boy.’”

Since then the plans have been made for Mike, daughter Cheylene and friend Earline to fly out and meet the family he never knew he had.
He not only has a mother, but five siblings, who are waiting to meet him. “My daughter made all of the arrangements and is taking time from her job to go with me,” he said. One of his “new” sisters, Brea, is making arrangements for their four-day visit there. “Three of my siblings live there in Springfield, one lives in Washington and one in Florida.” Mike said he believes he will meet four of them when he arrives in Oregon next week.
Mike’s birth mother was only 14 when he was born, he said. “I was born in the Florence Crittenden Home in Jackson.”

At three weeks old he went to live with foster parents Wilson and Margaret Becker, who adopted him about a year later. “The adoption would have been final sooner,” Mike said, “but my father was in the service overseas. That made it hard to get all of the paperwork done.”

Mike’s (adoptive) dad was a Greyhound bus driver. “We lived all over Michigan, mostly in the lower part of the state,” he said. “When I was 14 we moved up here. I’ve been here ever since.”

Mike was a Clare Police Officer for just over 20 years, and Clare Police Chief for ten – from 1976 to 1986. He has lived in the same place on Herrick Road since 1966 with his wife of 45 years, Sheila, who died in 2011, a victim of cancer.

Mike and Sheila adopted a daughter themselves. “My daughter Cheylene just located her own birth mother,” he said. He said Cheylene’s mother is from Beaverton and she found she has a sister and a brother. “I say we are ‘second generation’ adopted,” he said with a smile.
Mike’s daughter is a Vice President of JD Norman Industry in Troy. She is married to Robert Varto and now Mike has two grandchildren Kira 12, and Cole 6.

Mike retired from the Clare Police Department in ’86 when he developed Multiple Sclerosis. Now confined to a wheelchair, he has multiple health issues – MS, Diabetes, heart disease and “post-polio.” He had polio when he was six and the disease returned recently, limiting the use of his left arm.
Despite all that, Mike is optimistic about life and doesn’t let anything get him down. “You only get done in when you give up,” he said. “You have to keep on keeping on.” He added, “ I always say be good. If you can’t be good, be better.”

He has been keeping on. “I have to keep busy and get out and see people,” he said. For more than 20 years after his retirement he was a driver for the Amish community and although he is no longer able to do that, he still gives occasional rides to help out friends and neighbors. He also writes poetry and is a talented artist in pencil and charcoal.

His book of poetry and illustrations, “Words Not Bullets” has just been published, and will soon be available in area businesses. “It is about my life and time as a policeman. After all aren’t words better than bullets? That was my philosophy as police chief. That’s what a small town is all about.”

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